1. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    Thrown into your character's world or explore a new world with your character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ithestargazer, Jun 26, 2013.

    I've been reading a lot of YA and Urban Fantasy lately and have realised that there are two ways to approach writing/reading these kinds of stories in terms of world-building. The first is to be thrown into a world that the MC/characters are already aware of and interacting in. For instance, this would be the case in books like Graceling or The Hunger Games. The second is to have the MC/characters discover a previously unknown world to them and have the audience learn and explore this new world as the characters do. This would be the case with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

    I always thought I preferred to learn about the world as the characters do (possibly because Harry Potter was my first intense experience with a book series). Now, however, I'm writing stories where the character is already established in a world.

    What do you think? Any preferences as a reader/writer?
     
  2. huntsman40
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    huntsman40 Active Member

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    My answer is that both are good, and that is as reader and a writer. Reading new characters in a new world setting – even if the genre is familiar – is great, but so is going back to the same world with the same characters but with a new story as well. I've read all of R. A. Salvatore's books and he has been writing about the same characters for over twenty years, and that can be like a comfortable chair while watching a different movie.

    You liked the Harry Potter books – not too many people who read them didn't – and I'm sure you enjoyed most of them just as much as the first one, even if a couple of them could have used some pruning in edit.

    Oh, and your title question seemed slightly wrong. It was as if you were asking if we would like to be IN the world ourselves with the characters. Maybe that is what you meant, but your post seemed to indicate otherwise and so I answered thatt instead.
     
  3. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've tried both. I started off with a Harry Potter style world, where the MC is thrown into a world she was completely ignorant of. But it just didn't mesh with me. So now, every other novel I've thought of has the MC already part of the world. I think either could work if you manipulate it correctly. The hardest part I ran into is displaying the correct emotion behind your MC discovering this new world. It just took too much time for me to have the MC freaking out about this new world. So I changed it. :)

    I think it's just a matter of preference. :)
     
  4. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    Having someone from outside, looking at a new world, does present us with plenty of opportunities to world build with an easier touch, but I prefer my stories to exist in places that already exist, and characters that are already in them.
     
  5. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Both are equally good. In all honesty I don't see any draw backs to either and I have no real personal preference when it comes to reading. When it comes to writing I stick with having an established world just because it makes sense for the genres I typically write in.
     
  6. Ann-Russell
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    Ann-Russell Member

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    When there is a high learning curve for a novel, using the "character from our world gets sucked into new world" can be used as a tool to help lower it since they must learn everything too. I've read quite a few books like this, but after awhile it started looking too deliberate and now I prefer characters already in the environment. It definitely has its place though, especially with younger audiences.
     
  7. archerfenris
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    archerfenris Active Member

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    I agree both work just fine. However, I find that the character discovering this new world is far more exciting, as you take the trip with them. The big problem you run into is the one above. How will the character react to being in this new world when everything she/he's been taught says it's impossible? I'm currently cracking that nut right now in my novel. If it's done poorly the entire book is ruined.
     
  8. AshleyFinn
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    AshleyFinn Member

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    I like to explore the world with the character. I think I like to do that because I'm never 100% set on my story so I don't want to handcuff myself. I also think it's good way to develop a character because you have to throw a lot of new experiences at him or her and see how they react.
     
  9. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    This is an interesting question that I'd never thought about before. I think I prefer exploring the world with the character, as I feel more like I'm on an adventure with them. Sometimes I find books in which there is an established (and elaborate) world, the literary techniques come across as a little contrived: characters explaining things they should already know so as to inform the reader. I'm thinking of passages like:

    "Let's take the forest route, it's a lot quicker."

    I sighed at the suggestion. "How many times do I have to tell you? We can't go through the forbidden forest because that's where the evil wizard lives!", etc, etc.
     
  10. NeonFraction
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    NeonFraction Member

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    I think going into a new world invites several problems. I mean the 'entering a new dimension' type, because Harry Potter is really about a pre-existing world that the character was just unaware of.

    When you get to a new world, you are therefore stuck with the travel and the character's reaction to the new world being a major part of the plot. You can never have the character become a native of the world, except as an ending, because the story has then become, by definition, abut a stranger in a new world. Even if the character does learn a lot, he will be learning throughout the entire course of the story, unless there's some type of time skip where he has time to learn all about the world over a few off-screen years. Then again, constantly learning could be a way to keep the world feeling alived and involved in the story, instead of just being a backdrop. The biggest flaw, at least I feel, is that the character almost always has to search to find a way home, even if in the end he doesn't decide to go back. The plot has to revolve in some way about the sudden journey to a new world. The character will therefore have to spend a lot of page time wondering how he got there. If he doesn't, the reader probably won't sympathize with him. It's not normal for a person to completely accept the loss of everything they know and love and never wonder how they got to a new world.

    Starting in a totally new world, however, removes almost all of the plot limitations and allows you to create the story how you want. Unless you want to tell a very specific type of story, I would go with this option.
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Both can be effective. If you're throwing the reader into an established world, it is easy to fall into the trap of relating observations or explanations that the characters would never make, simply because you're trying to get that information to the reader. On the other hand, if you don't do any of that, some readers will be disoriented or put off by the lack of information (which is why some people don't like Steven Erikson, though I like his books quite a bit). Having someone from our world go into the fantasy world is the easier route, in my view, because you immediately have an excuse to filter all of the information about the world through the perception of the character, who is seeing everything for the first time and learning about everything at the same time as the reader.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    stupid server hang, resulting in double post.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It depends on whether the setting is the backdrop or the story. In Larry Niven's Ringworld, the artificial world truly is the story, so it's appropriate to tell the story through the eyes of explorers visiting it as a new discovery.

    However, more often the setting is only the framework for the real story. The setting provides the conditions that drive the events. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the story Blade Runner is based on) uses the setting solely to set the conditions for the story's events. So in that case the characters are familiar with the world and don't dwell on it. The reader discovers only as much as he or she needs to know about the setting for the story to make sense.

    Sometimes tou need to take a middle ground, such as in Suzanne Collins' saga, The Hunger Games. Although the characters don't know everything about the various settings, it's their disorientation caused by the curves thrown at them and how the characters respond to the socioeconomic conditions that is the story. So the exploration technique is used in placews, but in others, the reader learns about the setting by immersion.

    When choosing an approach to a writing problem, first examine what the objective is.
     

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